Print Читать на русском
Rate this article
(votes: 3, rating: 5)
 (3 votes)
Share this article
Alexey Kupriyanov

PhD in History, Senior research fellow, The Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC Expert

Kulani Wijayabahu

Transitional – Senior Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of Colombo (Sri Lanka)

Shakthi De Silva

Temporary – Assistant Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of Colombo (Sri Lanka)

It is no coincidence that the 21st century has been dubbed the “Asian Century,” with the centre of economic and political life in the world once again shifting to where it was half a millennium ago. China is an increasingly convincing candidate for the role of superpower, and India does not want to be left behind. The Indian Ocean is turning into one of the most significant water areas of the planet, with the most important trade routes passing through it, and its security determines the success of the growth strategies of China, Japan, India and the ASEAN countries.

This economic and political shift does not come at the best time for Russia, which has still not fully recovered following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its global stature. Moreover, its resources are limited, and the challenges are so numerous and varied that it cannot give the regions of the Indian Ocean and South Asia the attention they deserve. This means that Russia needs to pursue a balanced and cautious policy to help it regain as many of its former positions as possible which at the same time would not require excessive resources. Consequently, Russia’s policy in the region will have to rely on relations with those South Asian countries that are interested in this cooperation. They include Sri Lanka, which occupies an advantageous strategic position and harbours ambitions to be a significant player in regional politics.

RIAC and the Pathfinder Foundation Policy Brief #24 / 2019

It is no coincidence that the 21st century has been dubbed the “Asian Century,” with the centre of economic and political life in the world once again shifting to where it was half a millennium ago. China is an increasingly convincing candidate for the role of superpower, and India does not want to be left behind. The Indian Ocean is turning into one of the most significant water areas of the planet, with the most important trade routes passing through it, and its security determines the success of the growth strategies of China, Japan, India and the ASEAN countries.

This economic and political shift does not come at the best time for Russia, which has still not fully recovered following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its global stature. Moreover, its resources are limited, and the challenges are so numerous and varied that it cannot give the regions of the Indian Ocean and South Asia the attention they deserve. This means that Russia needs to pursue a balanced and cautious policy to help it regain as many of its former positions as possible which at the same time would not require excessive resources. Consequently, Russia’s policy in the region will have to rely on relations with those South Asian countries that are interested in this cooperation. They include Sri Lanka, which occupies an advantageous strategic position and harbours ambitions to be a significant player in regional politics.

Russia maintains friendly relations with both China and India, and this has a big influence on how it perceives the processes taking place in the region. Moscow is trying to mitigate the contradictions between New Delhi and Beijing as much as possible, as it is in Russia’s interests for China and India to at least get along with each other. On the whole, this position also benefits the states of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, especially Sri Lanka. New Delhi has been voicing its concerns recently about China’s increasing influence on the island. In particular, the Indian military are worried that Hambantota Port, which is currently leased by China, could become a base for the Chinese Navy in the future. The presence of Russia, which enjoys friendly relations with both India and China, and its participation in infrastructure projects, could help relieve tensions.

Western critics have argued that Russia may in future utilize the presence of the Islamic State in the region as an opportunity to increase its influence through military and economic assistance. Others portend that China’s BRI may create favourable conditions for Russia to exploit regional structural weaknesses to its advantage and attenuate any alignment between South Asian countries and the West through a geo-political toolkit. The strengthening of security ties between Islamabad and Moscow have often been cited as a manifestation of this.

Sri Lanka, in particular, faces a gamut of traditional and non-traditional security threats. Highest on the list of non-traditional threats is terrorism. Understanding the island’s main priorities, the Chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, commented that Russia desires to develop military cooperation with Sri Lanka and collaborate in the fight against international terrorism in the region. In future, one can expect Russia to build closer ties with Pakistan and other South Asian small states, particularly owing to India’s strengthening alignment with the US.

Sri Lanka also needs to be aware of a worst-case scenario where it might have to choose between joining either the

  • Japan – India – US – Australia camp or

  • the China – Pakistan – Russia camp.

Such a power configuration will be detrimental to the furthering of Sri Lanka’s national interest and jeopardize the peace and stability in the region.

Thus, this cursory analysis of the BRI, Indo-Pacific Strategy, SAGAR strategy as well as Russian strategic objectives in the region, exhibit the complex regional environment Sri Lanka has to face. What should Sri Lanka’s strategy be in this context?

International Relations in South Asia: Russia’s and Sri Lanka’s Views, 1.2 Mb

Rate this article
(votes: 3, rating: 5)
 (3 votes)
Share this article

Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
 
For business
For researchers
For students